Question: I haven't done any "work for pay" in 12 years, but I have done a lot of volunteer work. How do I address this on my résumé? Also should I include my employment from the 1980s? Matt: Paid, unpaid, overpaid, underpaid — work is work, says Kevin Donlin, president of Edina- based Guaranteed Résumés (www.gresumes.com).

"Whether or not it qualifies as real work in the mind of someone reading your résumé depends largely on your attitude toward it and how you describe what you've done," says Donlin. Donlin recommends listing your experience in chronological order, starting with the most recent.

Call this section, "Experience," not "Employment History" or "Work History," because some of it may not have been paid work.

Describe your earlier paid experience, but don't go back more than 20 years total — there's a fine line between being experienced and overqualified in the minds of some employers, says Donlin.

Only list the skills and experience that are relevant to the position you are seeking, says Joan Runnheim, a certified career management coach and president of Pathways Career Success Strategies (www.pathwayscareers.com). If you use a skills-based résumé, the dates aren't as important.

When it comes to volunteer work ask this question: "Will putting this in my résumé make me appear more qualified for the job I seek?" If the answer is no, leave it out. If yes, include it, and be specific about its value.

For example, instead of stating this:

• Managed fundraising project for Adams Elementary

Include the specific results of your actions:

• Managed project and team of 30 people that saved sports program serving 900 students. Raised $24,000 (exceeding goal by $4,000) after organizing and supervising fundraising event with 340 attendees (2006)."

See the difference?

"Be able to explain to hiring managers why your recent community or volunteer work makes you a more qualified candidate than others, because you will be asked," says Donlin.


Matt Krumrie is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, and has nine years of experience reporting on the employment industry. The first Sunday of each month this column will answer readers' questions. E-mail questions or subject ideas to askmatt@startribune.com.